Naya lards, Naya lards, what are they feeding you?
The Hive was apparently a big deal in Alpha, and lead designer Mark Rosewater excitedly remembers ripping one from a pack. Despite costing ten mana to make its first 1/1, the card appealed to players, and the tradition of having cards create non-card permanents was born. It would blossom through the years with the flavours varying - from small goblin squadrons to quintuple clones, from sacrificial saprolings to landfall beefslabs. The concept got welcomed into EDH with open arms, as it was a way to get a board in a can without the need to commit many cards. This turned out to be of relevance since the format's early battlecruiser slog days, and has held up with time. You're likely to encounter some tokens in each game you play, be it from a goodstuff'y wide, sacrifice shenanigans or a person trying to count to 20.
That said, conventional tokens are one thing. RTR opened up a whole different can of worms, introducing the world to populate. While on the surface it was just a way to get extra value from regular token generation, the Johnny side of the EDH populace soon figured out that this interacted favourably with token copies of nontoken creatures. The flexibility of the mechanic continues to make waves in the format, with Trostani being the most popular Selesnya commander. It certainly helped that the deck got various support pieces over the years, e.g. Helm of the Host or C15's myriad mechanic. In spite of those developments, continues to limp when it comes to tokenising existing creatures. That tends to be the domain of blue/red. Add some of black's solid ETBs, and you get murmurs of a cute rainbow populate shell. For now, populate got to spread into red out of the command zone with Ghired, Conclave Exile.
Gyrus-style playtest nerfing to prevent stomping on builds centred on less EDH-relevant mechanics (such as morph). You can also smell toned down bits of Brudiclad DNA, offering general payoff in bonus copies of guys you tokenise. Don't expect any particularly crazy fireworks from Rhino Man, but lower power fun can still be had.
Ghired decks that want to pursue nontoken creature copying need to focus on three primary modules:
- Actual creatures to copy. A mix of low mana value ETB utility and high-impact, high mana value bodies tends to work pretty well here. Bonus points for stuff that scales well with extra copies of itself. The fact Ghired brings along a 4/4 tramply friend allows you to be quite picky in token production and body copying, as you'll usually have Rhinos to fall back on.
- Copiers. This is the deck's main advantage over prior populate powerhouse Trostani, as red offers up a plethora of fantastic options to assist here.
- Combat survival. This destabilises the deck's consistency relative to Trostani, as you need to account for the fact your commander's puny 2/5 body plus whatever he copies will end up in combat and you have to help them survive. It's not all bad, as you can go for some aggro-minded options to simultaneously help kill people.
When constructing the deck, you also need to be acutely aware of the rather narrow time window when the commander's ability is the most relevant. Ghired may formally tick the box of an EDH aggro leader by cheating in more board state than you formally have resources to make, but one extra token a turn isn't that big a deal compared to the bombastic plays the format tends to devolve into as the game progresses. The pieces need to enable swift operation, getting online quickly and having impact the moment they land. Designing for late game relevance is difficult, but you can try to cheat the system a bit with some particularly explosive buff piece interactions, anti-wipe tech and the occasional cheeky infinite. Ghired life is rough, but you're not here to have it easy. Golos/Wanderer board barf is too cliché. You're here because one Thunderfoot Baloth just isn't enough, and you want to make more with style.
Daxos the majority of the time, seeing how it is the most power level compatible with the rest of the group, and seeing the same speed-bump'y deck for most of the weekly sessions had the guys grow tired of it. Ghired was the third C19 proposal, after two prior offers (Greven lifeloss/voltron.dec, Marisi perma-goad shadow incorporated) got shot down. Thankfully, the deck managed to accomplish what it set out to do - I can pull it out, stomp around mightily while roaring, and get brought down while still having fun playing it. It rarely wins, but it always does splashy stuff, matching the archetypical EDH aggro experience outside the very best commanders for it. It's easily the weakest deck in my arsenal, of the ones that aren't actively stipulated.
The list started out as a Precon Improvement Quest - I netdecked the contents of the box once they went live, and started fiddling around with its composition using my collection and local trades. That's how Daxos started out in 2015, and I think back to that time fondly. That said, I exhausted local resources within three batches of updates before the decks even hit the shelves. There were some nice little throwbacks to various prior failed designs in the 99 - Archangel of Thune was in a hyper-aggressive Bruse Tarl/Tymna list, Boomgoat is a pet card that was a major wincon of a short-lived Hug Slug draft, and I've been trying to make value Kiki work in sketches ranging from Jund reanimator to Xantcha remote voltron. I guess the longer you play the format, the more baggage of various dead decks you accumulate, and each new attempt in matching colours can bring some memories back.
Initial Token Generation
Bonus (Non-Body) Cardboard
The following subsections feature a sizeable list of options for each card group, including cards I currently run, cards I ran in the past and cards that will likely never grace my 99. My opinion isn't be-all, end-all, and whilst I can go for face smash and skimp on Aura Shards and Yosei in the interest of table-wide enjoyment, there are certainly Ghired build concepts where these will work fine. Also, all Ghired-copiable options have been stripped out of their relevant subsections, as indicated, and live in Decent Bodies.
1. (Non-Body) Rampano
Ghired costs five, impactful copiable bodies cost some too, as does the copying itself. The deck needs to be able to get to 5+ consistent mana pretty quickly and reliably, leading to most of the ramp taking on the form of 2-3 mana value land spells. We're in green, may as well make use of it and not be soft to artifact removal.
- Arbor Elf - One of the better one-drop dorks, as his untap ability interacts well with mana-boosting land auras.
- Birds of Paradise - Another one-drop dork, still too squishy. You're not trying to power out a three-drop commander, so you can go for more resilient ramp options.
- Carpet of Flowers - A solid option for competitive metas, benefitting from all the fancy dual Islands. In all honesty, Ghired has no place at tables like that.
- Cultivate - One could argue Cultivate variants shine in decks with 5 mana value commanders. You cast this thing turn three, you get a basic into play and a guaranteed land drop for next turn into your hand, and out comes your commander. As a counterpoint, they only accelerate said commander by a turn, so going slimmer is an option if you're confident in the deck's ability to not stall out too often. A bit overplayed otherwise, sitting in that weird middle ground between one-land two-drop and two-land four-drop ramp which both do things very efficiently.
- Farseek - The beauty of land type ramp is it fixes like a champ if you have the foresight to pack typed duals. Which you should - you're in Naya, the perfect colour combination to make good use of them. Three cycles' worth are affordable, go wild, enjoy.
- Joraga Treespeaker - Oh would you look at that, a one-drop dork. In contrast to the other ones, this one single-handedly ensures a turn three Ghired. Given the fact the deck really wants to get online as quickly as possible, the fragility of the creature can be forgiven.
- Kodama's Reach - Another Cultivate variant. In fact, given the fact this came first, maybe these should be called... oh, I see. It doesn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely. In spite of that shortcoming, just as decent as its near functional reprint cousin in this build.
- Mana Crypt - The deck wants to go fast. This allows the deck to go fast. It's a good fit. Unfortunately, it costs a ridiculous amount of money, so feel free to cut it if you don't have access to it.
- Mana Vault - The deck wants to go fast. This allows the deck to go fast. Once. That's not what you want, you want sustained mana.
- Mirari's Wake - Sure, double mana is nice for chasing out whatever you need. Is it worth spending a card and five mana to set up though, given the various supportive action at four and haymakers kicking in at the same mana value as this?
- Nature's Lore - The beauty of being in Naya is that the Forest is the "central" land in the distribution, granting you access to both white and red via shocks, tangos and bicycles. Even budget-conscious mana bases can make good use of this little ramp nugget.
- Nissa's Pilgrimage - Hey look, another Cultivate variant. The deck's half green, so the mono-Forest nature is not even that much of a drawback.
- Overgrowth - While an above-rate payoff is nice, costing three makes this sequence less well than the 1-2 mana value options.
- Rampant Growth - A simple no-frills two mana piece of land ramp. Cheap ramp is good.
- Search for Tomorrow - Holla holla get suspend. It's nice to get some land ramp going on turn one, lemme tell you. If hardcast later, can still be cashed in at a decent rate of return.
- Selvala, Heart of the Wilds - Combine with a Rhino and you've got Somberwald Sage tier payoff with none of the limitations. Can sometimes nab some extra cards off initial Rhinos or debut appearances of subsequent beaters.
- Skyshroud Claim - Due to the fact the deck's support pieces start kicking in at 4 mana value, playing ramp spells that compete with them in sequencing is not going to lead to a smooth gameplay experience. One for the bigger mana decks. Still a hell of a card though.
- Smothering Tithe - Another hell of a ramp card that suffers from the 4 mana value curse. A little less desirable here than normal given green's land ramp, but still a solid option.
- Sol Ring - Holla holla get ring. The format's most ubiquitous card strikes again, and this is a lovely home for it. The quicker you get some mana online the better, you can get Ghired out and start piecing together the various engine pieces to start copying stuff.
- Three Visits - Hey look, a second Nature's Lore! Printed ages ago, in a super limited release set, but thankfully offered a wider release in CMR.
- Utopia Sprawl - One-mana land auras are a great ramp nugget. If played turn two or later, they're mana neutral, and the ramp is there to stay. While not quite as immortal as land ramp, they're a lot more resilient than dorks or even rocks. The fact this one forces you to target a Forest is not a big deal, as Forests are where you want to put the land auras anyway because of potential Arbor Elf synergies.
- Wild Growth - Another one-drop land aura, as neat as the previous one.
An umbrella category for all sorts of cool things for Ghired to copy. This features everything, from your low-cost utility dudes to your curve topping haymakers, as this is one of the deck's key function modules and keeping all the options collated for an overview is good for transparency. Watch out for attack triggers, as Ghired populates a copy directly into combat, skipping that step.
- Angel of Destiny - Having multiple copies of this thing gets you multiple triggers of the life gain, and the titular "triple dip" has you gaining 36 life from the Angel copies alone. It's very easy to cross 55 and kill people with this thing. It should be noted that the end step trigger checks for having attacked, so the copy Ghired populates does not actually have killing power. That doesn't stop Angel from being a ridiculous beatstick in the deck though. If not copied, can contribute to some goofy games by turning you into a life gain deck for no tangible benefit.
- Archangel of Thune - At first glance, seems like a questionable include. The angel connects, you get a +1/+1 counter board-wide... yay? This thing comes online when copied, as each angel is an instance of life gain and a source of the anthem trigger. If you get multiples going, your board will be fatter than the eye can see soon enough. Can make key pieces fat enough to survive a Blasphemous Act! The crazy lifegain is nothing to sneeze at either.
- Archon of Valor's Reach - A sensible evasive beater with a nasty, game-warping ETB. This is one that's being consciously left out for table-wide enjoyment reasons, as a couple copies of this could shut some narrower decks. However, you're also known to run a diverse portfolio of support spells, so it would be a minor inconvenience to you too.
- Aurelia, the Warleader - Silly Rumpy, what's a legend doing here? You don't copy legends, silly. Or do you? Get a token copy of her online (let the original die to the legend rule), swing. Have Ghired's populate resolve before Aurelia's untap/extra combat trigger, keep the new Aurelia, then have her untap and proceed into the extra combat. As far as the new Aurelia's concerned, she hasn't attacked yet, so repeat this procedure until the table is dead. Also goes just as infinite with Helm of the Host and Rionya here as she does everywhere else. Outside the infinites, extra combats are a fantastic way to go for extra damage and shorten the clock, so getting one of those each go around is pretty solid for pressure.
- Avenger of Zendikar - A ridiculous board gummer that scales super well with extra copies of himself (more plants, more landfall triggers). That said, he is a bit on the slower side, as the bodies take a while to lose summoning sickness each time, and Ghired copies are measly 5/5s thrust into combat. Nevertheless a solid option.
- Cavalier of Dawn - An interesting value town support option. Pop a thing on entry, with the resulting 3/3 being of little relevance to your board. On death, potentially recur a relevant artifact/enchantment support piece. However, he does come with a hefty five mana price tag, which makes him a bit difficult to justify if I'm complaining Avenger is slow.
- Duergar Hedge-Mage - The best Reclamation Sage variant, as the benefits of a sculpted land base include easy access to typed lands, making this guy a 2-for-1. Hey, you might be aggro, but you should still pack some efficient answers to stuff.
- Eternal Witness - A smidge of recursion is a good thing to have, particularly on a body in a deck specialising in copying creatures. A reasonable use of idle Twinflames and creature tutors, allowing you to get them back immediately (along with some other stuff, maybe). However, this does notify your opponents of those options in your hand.
- Farhaven Elf - It's a body, it ramps, and it responds well to copying if you feel like it (which you sometimes will). Seems like a pretty good idea to run some of these effects.
- Garruk's Packleader - He's a utility piece at five mana, which is a bit of an awkward spot for the deck to be in. However, he is a reliable draw outlet, as decently powerful creatures will be landing repeatedly. Can theoretically be copied, for funny refuelling results.
- Giant Adephage - Producing tokens on its own is good, as it gives you some level of insurance if the conventional engine fails to cooperate. However, he takes a while to wind up, and costs a hefty seven mana to get out.
- Greenwarden of Murasa - A beefier Eternal Witness. Keep in mind his death trigger won't work in token form as he vanishes when state-based actions are checked.
- Herald of the Host - The myriad guys from C15 are quite cute, as they self-tokenise and offer a decent clock. While their table-wide damage may be respectable, they have little impact on any individual opponent and still take quite a while to wind up. The white one being a fancy Serra Angel is good for emergency defensive uses.
- Inferno Titan - Get a few of these guys going and the freely spreadable bolts will add up to a good degree of board terror. It's nice that the damage also comes out on ETB, making populated copies immediately impactful.
- Kalonian Hydra - Looks innocent enough on the surface, especially given the fact it's an attack trigger. Quickly reveals itself to be a horrible, uncontrollable monstrosity in multiples. Given the right support pieces in an opening hand (think Aurelia or Helm of the Host), it might actually be more efficient to forego deploying Ghired and just go for a Hydra-based table stomp. Can sometimes accidentally pump other things on your board. Two Kalonian swing triggers renders them immune to Blasphemous Act. Crazy, crazy card.
- Knight of Autumn - A flexible Reclamation Sage variant, in that if you don't need to pop a thing you can just gain some life instead. The +1/+1 counter mode is likely not coming online.
- Ogre Battledriver - Haste is a good thing to have in aggro decks. This comes out before Ghired, and even offers up a little welcome pump. Stack a couple copies of these guys and each new arrival will have an uncomfortably high power, putting your opponents in annoying combat scenarios.
- Ohran Frostfang - Granting all attackers deathtouch is a good incentive to skip blocking your guys, and can even let some of your utility dorks get in if you point them smartly. And when your stuff does get in, you get a crazy refuel. Apparently stapling the static bits of Bident of Thassa and Bow of Nylea together leads to a good card. Multiples allow for disgusting grip sculpting. Interacts superbly with trample, which your Rhinos handily come with.
- Pathbreaker Ibex - Another attack trigger so ridiculously strong that the card gets in anyway. Sure, the board may not feature any super tall creatures, but get a few exponential Ibex stacks and it won't matter. A sublime game ender off a "kicked" Finale of Devastation.
- Quartzwood Crasher - A stellar hunk of beef. The fact the Rhinos helps kickstart Dinosaur production is great, and things can snowball from there as Ghired can populate the progressively larger tokens later. Is also useful defensively, some fat blockers help deter or neuter swings, and tactical spreading of trample damage to many faces can make a wider field of resulting tokens. Scales the best of the beatsticks when no copiers are in sight, and is no slouch either when cloned - more Dinosaur tokens! A wonderfully potent and complex card.
- Sakura-Tribe Elder - Hey, the land may not come in on ETB, but that doesn't make Steve any worse a copy target. Fine, I guess it kind of does, as he's most likely dead for the cause before there's even a chance to copy him, but keep it in mind in case you're slightly stalled out and a Steve shows up late.
- Selfless Spirit - Board protection on a body, just sacrifice to get online! Less costly and more evasive than Dauntless Escort. Not the sort of thing you'd typically want to copy, but I have done so in the past to try to shield my board from interaction. It ended up working, so there's that. Don't forget this guy exists if someone's in the process of wiping you and you've got a Chord up.
- Skyscanner - A cheap ETB cantrip. While marginally more expensive than Elvish Visionary, it does fly, which helps ensure it'll still be there for another Ghired copy in later combats if need be. I haven't found myself desiring this sort of effect much in recent builds of the deck, but it is an option at your disposal.
- Subjugator Angel - Honestly, how many of you remembered this card before stumbling into this thread? Not that many, I'd guess. I'd like to think I have a good knowledge of the card pool, yet I was baffled when Jivanmukta pointed me to this thing. Sure, six mana is steep, but guaranteed connecting with your whole army feels worth it. Often a late-game tutor target to try to cheese the last bit of damage in.
- Thunderfoot Baloth - The perennial casual beefslab gets to have a welcoming home. Sure, the scaling may only be linear, but the teamwide pump and trample is pretty good for pressuring people. If you're going to be relying on him, be mindful of needing the actual original Ghired on board, and not a Flameshadow Conjuring copy.
- Vigor - Making your team turn all damage into counters is a pretty good proxy for unblockability. People will be aware of the inevitable return of the fatter swingers, and will avoid blocking you unless absolutely mandatory. Copy this guy for complete impunity swinging, and hey - a 6/6 trampler is better than a 4/4 trampler. Makes silly things happen with Blasphemous Act, as usual sillier if you've got some copies sitting around (on account of not losing the Vigors to the wipe, they unfortunately don't stack as it's a replacement effect).
- Wood Elves - The best of the three-drop ETB dorks, as this one can yield a typed dual land, and it does so untapped. It's not uncommon at all for me to get some copying going on this guy for those reasons.
- Wurmcoil Engine - Some wrath insurance and an unpleasant body to handle on the board. However, it is just a 6/6, with no room to grow anything.
- Yavimaya Dryad - A nearly strictly worse Wood Elves, as the Forest comes in tapped and the cost is more restrictive. The forestwalk is largely irrelevant.
- Yosei, the Morning Star - Keep on copying this guy and shipping copies to the graveyard to lock people off untaps. Another instance of making the legend rule work for you. Crazy unfun though, so left out in spite of the power.
- Zealous Conscripts - Rather unimpressive as a standalone body, even if tokenised and populated by Ghired. However, she is a combo piece with Kiki and Splinter Twin, so you could run her for that explicit purpose.
The second main functional module of the deck is turning actual creatures into tokens. Thankfully, the addition of red to populate's prior colour range results in some solid support options to choose from here, and is the main benefit of going for Ghired as a populate commander.
- Blade of Selves - The more immediately applicable take on myriad, which grants it to anything that you put this on. Pretty good for applying table-wide pressure and getting (temporary) extra copies of things with bogus scaling, but skips attack triggers to compensate. The relatively low play+equip combo of six mana allows you to often keep this out of sight until the moment's just right. Does absolutely nothing in the final 1v1, if it comes down to that.
- Bramble Sovereign - Hey look, they printed half of Riku on a standalone green dude. The token's permanent, unlike most copiers Naya can reach, which is also nice. To compensate, you need to front the two mana overhead the turn you play the guy you want to copy, which might occasionally be a bit of a problem in the mid game. Note you can theoretically copy Ghired with this for an extra Rhino, and you can even keep the original if you want.
- Feldon of the Third Path - A solid token producer, but a bit on the situational side. You need to have a stocked graveyard, i.e. lose a bunch of your stuff in battle already. Given the deck's push for consistency in any scenario, Feldon got deposited on the curb. That said, if you're in a wipe'y meta and you know you'll get good use out of him, by all means slot him back in.
- Flamerush Rider - Worst case scenario, this is a one-shot copy on similar terms to Blade of Selves (and then the Rider dies). If you have some combat survival stuff going on, this turns into a repeatable value engine and helps put pressure on people. If there's nothing good going on, you can make a Ghired copy for an extra Rhino.
- Flameshadow Conjuring - Somehow, being one mana cheaper to spin up than Bramble Sovereign makes this feel a lot easier to operate. You'll find yourself doing the Ghired copy trick here a lot more often, as it nets you two extra Rhinos for your trouble. Just be mindful of doing that in a bounce-heavy game, as the fact the final Ghired is a token means he just vanishes and you have to front commander tax for the original you let die.
- God-Pharaoh's Gift - Oh man, seven mana for a graveyard probe engine. Time for a sigh of relief that we're not Trostani and don't have to stoop to this sort of stuff to get our engine humming.
- Hate Mirage - The option to reach for your opponents' creatures is nice and all, but you're building the deck with creature copying in mind. It seems quite probable that whatever you have available as options is going to be more worthwhile to put through the machine than whatever you can steal off your opposition. Keep it in mind if your meta's heavy on ridiculous bombs you'd like to see on your side of the field.
- Heat Shimmer - Three mana for a one-shot copy is not that bad, but this is from a time when they stuck the red temporary creature suicide directly onto the token. As such, any populated copies will retain said clause, and blow up at the end of the turn. No go.
- Helm of the Host - Ridiculously expensive to get online, but ultimately worth it for the permanent, non-legendary copies. It even works well with just Ghired if you get nothing else going on, barfing out an exponential barrage of barely relevant 2/5s (that breed a matching army of 4/4s in the back). Goes crappily infinite with Kiki and less crappily infinite with Aurelia.
- Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker - A crazy workhorse piece for the deck, spitting out a copy a turn without the need to endanger himself in combat. The fact this bugger has haste means you can often tutor him out of nowhere and get your copy engine online without anyone expecting it. Don't forget the wonky "beginning of the next end step" wording, feel free to hold off making a copy of a guy until the end step before your turn if you don't need it immediately. Then the token won't go away until it's the end of your go. If you've got a particularly juicy bit of scaling in sight, feel free to have Kiki make another copy in your turn and go wild in combat for maximum value. Recommended.
- Mimic Vat - Similar story to Feldon, but can formally pick up other people's stuff. Shaved in the name of consistency streamlining, doesn't make it not worth your while in more removal-heavy groups.
- Mirror March - A card for people who like to live dangerously. There's a fifty percent chance it will leave you with nothing, and it has the audacity of costing six to get online. I'd still be a little torn at four, but six? Come on.
- Rionya, Fire Dancer - A powerful Kiki sidegrade, losing the potential Helm of the Host combo application and blocker generation and replacing it by stapling an effective Twinflame onto every instant/sorcery played prior to combat. There are 20+ of those in the deck, some of them quite cheap, so it's not at all improbable to surprise the opposition with many copies of whatever you have on hand by smartly using some spare mana. And even if you don't have much on hand, Rionya is not averse to copying legendaries. So the fail case is making Rhinos. Also technically goes infinite with Aurelia without the need for a Ghired.
- Splinter Twin - The old time Modern bogeyman gets to make a rare EDH appearance. Slap it on something with a good ETB and don't worry about Ghired's populate needing to make a copy that survives combat to continue the fun next turn. No infinite combos with it here though.
- Twinflame - While willingly devoting a card to a single shot of copying may seem like lunacy, having it cost two mana and come out of absolutely nowhere is a great way to surprise the opposition. The strive mode is not going to be used too often.
Time for a brief moment of respite from the main functional modules and a quick look at ways to get extra value out of tokens. This encompasses both conventional doublers and putative alternate populate engines, the latter of which could help you depend a bit less on Ghired's combat populate or just get some extra value. I've moved away from those though, as they do little without the deck already having come online to some extent. Don't forget that doubled tokens go into whatever predicament the original is in, including being forced into attacking.
- Anointed Procession - This sort of effect is no joke. Twice the tokens, twice the clock. Suddenly even the Rhino plan is appealing, as making eight power with each swing is pretty decent. The fact it costs 4 also helps it in sequencing.
- Doubling Season - The downside of costing 5 is real, as you will need to slow down the deployment of any non-Rhino action by a full turn to accommodate this most of the time. That said, doubling the counters is actually surprisingly relevant for one of the list's premier haymakers. A simple copied and populated Kalonian Hydra turns into five 216/216 tramplers for you to distribute as you see fit. Seems worth the sacrifice.
- Esika's Chariot - Hey cool, populate every turn, and with the much beloved mana value of 4. Thing is, like all other populates, this only really does anything once the engine is already online and you're looking at a copied beatstick. Otherwise it just makes a couple extra Rhinos, which is not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. Cat Car has a huge advantage over some activated ability populates in that it's free, but that comes at the cost of needing to send a 4/4 into combat. While the deck is armed to try to make that work, it's still an extra hoop to jump through for a card that only starts contributing once the multi-module setup has already come together
- Growing Ranks - Another free populate, this one not requiring you to send anything into battle, but triggering on upkeep to compensate. That makes it even less likely to contribute to the beefslab copying plan, as it won't see any of the temporary copies that a lot of the effects tend to make.
- Parallel Lives - Another token doubler for 4. In it goes. Good stuff.
- Primal Vigor - Okay, enough's enough. This is a similar tempo hit and payoff to Doubling Season, but the effect is not limited to your guys only. You're not that explosive, the rest of the table could potentially make use of this to your detriment in the meantime.
- Rhys the Redeemed - The fact this guy can pop each turn to keep exponentially growing your board state makes him feel like a sensible supplement to the deck's functionality. The ability's high cost soon reveals itself to be a problem though. In most scenarios when I'd topdeck him in the mid/late game, a Second Harvest would have been better.
- Second Harvest - However, Second Harvest only does its thing once, which makes overcautious engine crafting me tentative to run it. The window where you feel comfortable popping this is quite narrow, and requires a developed board. It doesn't help you get there, ergo it's a situational option, and you ain't got the flexibility of going for many of those.
- Selesnya Eulogist - Hey look, it's a populate engine. The fact it slurps creatures out of 'yards to do its thing is supposed to be upside, as you get to interact with graveyard decks, but sometimes you won't have anything to eat with this. Still, the risk should probably be worth it for the combination of furthering your game plan and slightly interacting with others. Note that it can operate the turn it comes out.
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice - Note that she can't operate the turn she comes out. Perfectly okay if sequenced before Ghired, but a rather questionable topdeck later. Sure, there's a bit of immediate lifegain to sweeten the deal, but there's no denying she's overall a bit too slow for what she'd need to accomplish here.
- Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage - This was the winner of Precon Improvement Quest for the longest time, as it's a card I would not have considered running if I built the list from scratch. Yet it was a solid backline utility player and stuck around update after update, only being removed once I consciously trimmmed any remnants of standalone populate from the deck. Worth a spot if you're happy with extra modularity, or even just the power to sink four mana for a Rhino.
Back to our regular scheduled show. Ghired's populate only happens in combat, and he's a measly 2/5 that has to venture into the red zone to get things done. As such, the final functional module of the deck are various ways to help make sure he doesn't die out there. It doesn't need to be defensive stuff only, mind you - pump up your team enough, and blocking them out of existence will become troublesome. Going for a wide range of effects here can help the individual options stack for increased oomph.
- Avacyn, Angel of Hope - Permanently indestructible creatures make for confident swingers. The added wrath protection is pretty solid as well. The hefty mana overhead is not ideal, but the resulting degree of board security is fantastic. You don't run enough wipes to make her unpleasant.
- Beastmaster Ascension - A board-wide +5/+5 is pretty good for ensuring your swingers are fat enough to not just fall over and die, all while doubling up as a good way to speed up the clock. You want both those things. That said, it can sometimes take a turn to "rev up" as the deck doesn't natively make a particularly wide setup. It's worth it though.
- Dolmen Gate - Being mana-cheap is great, and the benefit is static and immediate. The effect is redundant with a number of other options already in use, but the cost speaks for itself.
- Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite - The wild power swing this thing applies board-wide is commendable. That said, it's also quite unpleasant for the opposition, so Elesh is sitting this one out.
- Frontline Medic - Similar story to the Gate, there are plenty of other options that net functional indestructibility on swing and other things on top of that. Plus the Medic has to actually swing, making him a poor topdeck later.
- Gisela, Blade of Goldnight - The combination of static effects on her is beastly, not only making your guys effectively doubly statted in combat but also buffering you from harm. Gets progressively stupider if Helm of the Host becomes involved, and two tokens mean each angel slaps for 40. Guess who enables turning one token copy into two token copies?
- Iroas, God of Victory - Iroas does things that aren't just combat invincibility. Menace is nothing to sneeze at, and the fact he's an indestructible enchantment makes him a pain to deal with. He becomes a body quite often, needing three pips once the commander is in play. In those scenarios, it's often correct to leave him back on anti-crackback duty due to his indestructibility.
- Lightning Greaves - This lives here for lack of a better category; one could argue that sending in extra bodies is a form of combat enhancement as that's more swingers for the adversary to divide their attention between. Haste is a good thing in a face-punch sort of deck, and the way the build curves out in the mid game means it's perfectly fine to just grant one swinger haste. The Greaves does nonbo with Reconnaissance and Rionya, but I'm pretty sure the mana savings over alternate haste sources are a stronger argument in its favour.
- Marisi, Breaker of the Coil - Now here's an interesting option. You connect on someone, now they have to swing into your opposition. This accelerates the game, lets you swing into them again, and also prevents crackback. Get the whole table goaded and you're in business. However, Marisi's quite situational. You have to connect in the first place, while this chunk of cards tends to focus on making that happen.
- Odric, Master Tactician - Granting you full control over blockers is a hell of a strong effect. You can use it as removal and slurp small utility dudes, or you can ignore all that stuff and just ride in uncontested. This is likely the mode you'll end up pursuing most of the time. That said, he does need to swing to offer this benefit, unlike most other enhancers that offer static effects. Still, complete combat control is so strong that he can be used as a measuring stick to evaluate other slow payoff.
- Reconnaissance - Turbo vigilance is just as good here as you'd expect. Swing and get blocked? Yoink your guy out of combat before he goes down. Get in for damage? Great, move to end of combat, remove him from combat anyway. This is an actual thing.
Darn, that's a lot of things you need to get online for the deck to pop off. Never fear, your old friend the tutor is here! Helping fill out various gaps in the setup is going to smooth out the experience. Naya specialises in creature fetching, which is thankfully compatible with the constituents of your functional modules.
- Birthing Pod - A bit of a strange include at first glance, as this is typically a mainstay of graveyard value decks. That said, most of your creatures live in the 3-6 mana value space, and a Pod activation or two can get you a functional setup that you can work with. Don't forget that the temporary red-derived tokens make for fantastic fodder to chuck at this. Common target goals include Kiki to get a proper engine online, or just Iroas to populate Rhinos with impunity while you fiddle around with your draw constituents to get something going.
- Chord of Calling - The instant speed is well worth the slight mana overhead (which you can likely make up for via convoke anyway). Nab a surprise guy with pseudo-haste in the end step before your turn, get a piece of emergency removal to stop yourself from dying, pull out Selfless Spirit (or Avacyn, if swimming in mana) if you got caught unprepared by a wipe. This thing's been an all-star in every single Gx deck I've ever put together, and that still holds true here.
- Defense of the Heart - The effect on this sure is powerful, as you get to pull out two creatures directly onto the field. However, it needs to live unimpeded for a full turn cycle to accomplish this, and your opponents have to get some creatures to pop this. Too many variables left in hands that aren't yours. That, and it elicits a fearful reaction that your combo-light aggro heap won't manage to live up to.
- Eladamri's Call - The fact this doesn't slap on the creature cost overhead immediately is actually surprisingly nice sometimes. Hold a couple mana up, be it for real or bluffed wipe interaction, and then just pull a guy out before you untap. It's nice that the card goes straight to hand, saving you the trouble of drawing it.
- Enlightened Tutor - That said, being a hyper cheap way to get something you can't otherwise tutor to the top is still pretty good. Most early copies turn into Sol Ring variants for turn two deployment. Later on can get vital pieces that aren't copy-worthy creatures, or a token doubler.
- Finale of Devastation - Damn, what a beast of a card. You'll use up most of these getting Kiki in the mid game, but occasionally you'll manage to save up 12 mana without needing to expend this. When you do, you pull out Boomgoat and immediately end the table's life. Don't forget this can also serve as recursion in a pinch. Just when you thought this couldn't get any better.
- Green Sun's Zenith - The deck's leaning towards green, and as a result the reach on this thing is pretty good. There a source of pseudo-evasion, ridiculous card draw and too many beaters to count. It does sting a bit that this can't nab Kiki or Iroas, but the range is still acceptable.
- Godo, Bandit Warlord - Essentially a second copy of Helm of the Host, which also happens to win the game on the spot if undisrupted. If disrupted and they went after Godo, you still get to keep the Helm, which is good news for you. If they went for the Helm... well, he functions as an Aurelia if you also happen to have Reconnaissance out, I guess?
- Idyllic Tutor - Still has the power to get something out of the key categories Enlightened Tutor can reach, minus the early Sol Ring leg-ups. Couple that with needing to front a three mana tax for the tutoring and you've got a pretty good reason to skip this one.
- Tooth and Nail - Getting two pieces of the puzzle immediately onto the pitch is nice and all, but it comes online a bit too late at nine mana.
Another thing known to help consistency is card draw. Keep yourself topped up and find various missing pieces, extra ramp, what have you. This ain't your first rodeo, most likely, you know how card draw works in EDH. That said, the list is a little awkward due to conventionally setting up a mid-sized board of mid-sized bodies, making the typical tall/wide draw options both a bit inefficient in their own way.
- Elemental Bond - Say what you want, I like a steady trickle of bonus cardboard. Makes you constantly have some more options, doesn't force you into discard decisions, doesn't attract as much attention as a gigantic one-shot draw. Bond's the best for that here, as it's a cheap out of the way enchantment that tops you up a little each time you make a Rhino or most anything else. Possibly the best class of draw for this deck.
- Garruk's Uprising - It should formally be noted that upping the power from 3 to 4 makes this miss almost half of Elemental Bond's targets in the 99, but there's plenty of other value tacked on to sweeten the deal. Most of the three-power misses are utility creatures that you wouldn't want to copy anyway. In terms of beatstick application, Boomgoat doesn't care that much. All the other beefslabs still work. That, and Rhinos still trigger this, and the deck makes a bunch of Rhinos while actually looking for pieces in the mid game. As such, the formal note has been acknowledged, but this is still perfectly fine.
- Genesis Wave - A lovely little board in a can that generates crazy card advantage if you can sink enough into this. Thing is, you kind of can't. The deck runs early game ramp, and mana acceleration slows down as you head towards the higher parts of the single digits. This would often sit in hand and want more mana to do its thing than you can afford to spare it. At least you can always cash in Finale of Devastation for something without "kicking" it.
- Greater Good - Hello and welcome to tall draw, where you get cards based on how big your things are! Your default mode of operation is Rhino, which is four tall. That lets you go four deep in search of whatever you may be missing to do things that are a bit more exciting than Rhinos. Sure, you then have to pitch three cards, but you still get to keep whatever interests you. Another cool thing is that the activated ability is instant speed, so you can do this whenever. Eat a doomed Rhino that got blocked by a bigger fish, chew through your board as a wipe sits on the stack, get some extra juice from a temporary red-derived token that's about to vanish. It does things and smooths out consistency.
- Guardian Project - Most creature-based trickle draw takes the form of this sort of effect, where you get to refuel off a nontoken creature being cast/entering. That's not the best for us, you tend to have a bunch of meaty tokens come in, which these sorts of options ignore. That said, this is the best of the bunch if you feel like giving it a shot.
- Harmonize - Four mana, three cards. No questions asked, no conditions, no nothing. A typical shadow dweller that does okay things and helps run the show.
- Idol of Oblivion - Super cheap to get out, pretty easy to enable in here given the various copying and populating, and rewards you with my beloved trickle draw. A bit lower impact than most of the other draw engines, but still functional.
- Life's Legacy - Your default mode of operation is still Rhino, obviously gets better if you have something disposable with more power. Two mana for four cards is pretty good. I'll take it.
- Momentous Fall - Hold on, I just established two mana for four cards it a good thing to do with Rhinos. Why would I pay four mana for the same thing? Sure, there's a smidge of lifegain and the potential of reactive use, but the deck values its playmaking and mana too much to hold this up most of the time.
- Rishkar's Expertise - So, continuing the whole Rhino mana efficiency train, two mana for four cards is good. So if you play this and then use the second part of the effect to chase out a four-drop spell, you met the criteria. And you even get to keep the Rhino! Costing six is not that much of a bother, Ghired costs five and it's not like you'll be doing this pre-Ghired. Bonus points for casting something stupid like Kiki or Kalonian Hydra.
- Shamanic Revelation - Wide draw. I don't feel comfortable running this sort of effect here, as it's relatively mana intensive and and only properly comes online if you're doing very well for yourself. Sure, that way it can provide insurance if you get wiped, but what about all the scenarios when you're just trudging along, trying to get something good going?
- Sylvan Library - A tried and true utility option, granting fantastic card selection in the face of repeated shuffling off ramp/tutors/fetches. Can also repurpose some life for extra cards in a pinch.
- Tireless Tracker - You're a deck with lands, you'll play lands, you'll get clues. However, you then have to spend two mana per clue to cash it in for a card. Sure, sometimes there's some spare mana floating around, but often this is just a touch too slow for the deck's quick ambitions. Could nominally be copied, but I never got through all the clues a single Tracker made, let alone if there'd be a copy.
- Wheel of Fortune - A good backup mechanism to refuel like mad while disrupting your foes a bit. It's okay to not play this if you're already doing fine for cardboard.
Wipes happen in EDH. Wipes will happen all the more once you get your gears aligned and barf out an imposing board state. Given the fact your game plan revolves around your creatures, you should pack various reactive anti-blowout tech to survive those situations. Adjust proportions to taste depending on meta wrath tendencies.
- Boros Charm - The non-protection modes don't interest you too much here. And as far as plain indestructibility goes, there are more exciting things you could be doing. A sensible include if expanding the number of these effects, but not one of the forerunners.
- Eerie Interlude - A very nice way to circumvent anything your foe might be throwing at your beatsticks, but tokens come with the nasty habit of vanishing into thin air if moved anywhere that isn't the battlefield. As such, this will only preserve the bare bones essentials of your board state. Still potentially acceptable if you have a way to generate another initial token of whatever it is you're copying at the moment.
- Flawless Maneuver - Free is good. This may not be as crazy versatile as some of the other options on here, but it's a shield that's always up as the deck tries to sequence together its plan of Ghired-beefslab-copy-slam. Having a dodge button for a wipe attempt during that time frame can get you out of a nontrivial tempo swing.
- Heroic Intervention - What's better than straight indestructibility? Hexproof and indestructibility! This grants you the power to potentially blank particularly problematic pieces of spot removal as well, if need be.
- Rootborn Defenses - Hey cool, straight indestructibility and a populate. That said, costing three is a little more taxing than costing two, requiring more resources held up. You're not super heavy on mana sinks that can guzzle this mana if you don't need to protect yourself. In contention for the best option the list isn't running at the moment though.
- Teferi's Protection - As long as you're holding this, you almost certainly haven't lost. That's the problem though - as long as you're holding this. TefProt costs three mana, and it's nontrivial for Ghired to spare that sort of change while trying to curve out the commander, a beatstick, some copying, maybe extra ramp/utility. You're most likely to be able to cast this when you're spinning your wheels and waiting for stuff to connect, i.e. you're in trouble, or in that super narrow window where you've got your beef copied and you're just cleaning up the table. This usually doesn't stop you getting wiped as you try to get to that point.
Some amount of removal is to be expected in most any deck. Seeing how you're the aggressor, you should focus more on offering threats for the table to scramble against than trying to blow things up yourself. As such, the answer package is quite lean.
- Beast Within - I like this general class of removal spell. You expend three mana, you answer anything that needs answering. They haven't printed too many of these over the years, but each one that comes out is an instant EDH classic and gets automatically shoehorned into every single one of my builds that can support it. That said, Beast Withins are admittedly a little clunky within this particular shell, as the deck likes to spend its mana on developing its board state. Still worth slots due to versatility.
- Blasphemous Act - Another auto-include, potentially blows up the world for a single red mana. That sounds like pretty good value. The list has potential to make this somewhat asymmetric, as on top of regular indestructibility you can grow some stuff on the board enough to survive the 13 damage, or you can have Vigor turn this into a crazy alpha blowout.
- Chain Reaction - The Blasphemous Act lines still apply here, and this should probably be your go-to option if you choose to add a second wipe to the deck.
- Chaos Warp - This is a bit of a necessary evil of a card, the sort of thing you jam if you're not in white or green for better options. Might just be me and my permanent-heavy meta, but I've never gotten particularly good mileage out of this.
- Decimate - Taking out four things is nice, but it comes with a slew of drawbacks. You can't cast this without having legitimate targets for all four options. It costs four, competing with the deck's array of support pieces. It's sorcery speed. Don't get me wrong, it's a hell of a card, but it just doesn't feel like it belongs here.
- Generous Gift - Check it out, they reprinted Beast Within in white! Thanks Ethan!
- Hull Breach - A bit like a one-shot Duergar Hedge-Mage, you can use this to pop two things at once. And it costs a very reasonable two mana as well. A pretty sensible potential include.
- Path to Exile - One mana to surgically remove a problem creature for good, as it's pretty tough to come back from exile. Sure, they get a Rampant Growth for their trouble, but that's likely no compensation for what you're taking away.
- Swords to Plowshares - Just in case you thought giving out land is too strong, you can just give out a bit of lifegain instead. Thankfully, due to its lack of modern legality, this thing is dirt cheap.
Fielding an aggressive three-colour deck with some fussy colour requirements (Kiki has the audacity to demand in an otherwise red-light build) leads to the need for a solid mana base. Thankfully, being in Naya means good support for land type ramp. Try to run as many land-type dual cycles as you can, and whatever untapped two-colour lands you can get your hands on.
- City of Brass - The life loss may not be ideal, but at least it grants unconditional access to any colour you may need.
- Command Tower - A commander deck that's not mono-colour? Yes? In it goes.
- Jungle Shrine - An acceptable budget option, as granting any colour is very handy. Run this ahead of all the karoos and whatnot for this very reason.
- Mana Confluence - Same idea as City of Brass, comes with the upside of occasionally dodging the life loss if someone's got an Urborg out and you don't need the coloured access.
- Path of Ancestry - Slapping an occasional scry onto Jungle Shrine is pretty decent value. There are some humans and shamans (even human shamans!) in here, so this will fire off outside of commander casting in most games.
- Reflecting Pool - I've always been quite partial to this land, and believe it to be underplayed. As long as you run a good spread of multi-colour lands, not even necessarily of the fully spruced up fetch-based variety, this should do good things in most games.
- Fetches - They get the lands with the land types, allowing you easy access to colours at any stage of the game. If only they weren't so horrendously expensive...
- Original Duals - The original land type lands, very good, ridiculously pricey. I'd recommend skipping these unless you already have access to them.
- Shocklands - The gold standard of fetchable lands in EDH for most mana bases, automatic include here. Thankfully quite affordable due to ample reprints due to ample Ravnica returns.
- Tango Lands - For a while around the middle of the 10's, R&D were quite happy to print land type cycles. Unfortunately they remain incomplete, but as a shard you get access to two of each. These have the upside of coming in untapped if a few basics come around, a single Cultivate's worth will do the trick.
- Bicycle Lands - The second of those mid-10's land type cycles, this one has no trick to come in untapped. You can theoretically cycle them away later though, so there's that. Still a reasonable include, and you should probably run these if you're not sitting on original duals.
- Snow Duals - The cheapest of the typed land cycles, and a solid consideration due to their nonexistent price and the completeness of the cycle. They come in tapped, you can't cycle them away, but they do come in and do their thing. A solid consideration, but be mindful of your choice of tapped typed land count to not lose too much tempo.
- Filter Lands - Very solid fixing, allowing for managing two colours with ease. Come in untapped. Unfortunately, they're quite pricey to compensate.
- BBD Lands - A horribly whiffed opportunity to grant EDH its own cycle of OG dual replacement. Why are there no land types here? That said, this is a very solid cycle, left incomplete like all too many have been. Still, Naya's a shard, as previously mentioned. You get two of these, both with green in them, in a green-focused shell. They'll work.
- Checklands - Given the focus on land type lands to work with the various ramp options, these guys will almost certainly come in untapped and do their thing. Solid option.
- Painlands - By now we're slowly drifting off towards necessary evil territory. Dinging without all-colour access is not the best, but sometimes you've gotta do what you've gotta do.
- Signet Lands - Another reasonable cycle that never got completed. The mandatory filtering may be awkward at times.
- Temples - Try to stay away from tap lands. You should have enough options to find something within your reach before you stoop to these. If a land comes in tapped, it should either do something crazy, offer all colours of mana, or come with land types.
- Ancient Tomb - Sure, I mentioned the deck being fussy with its colours. However, I also mentioned how well it responds to fast starts. This is the land version of a fast start.
- Exotic Orchard - A bit tough to classify, as it might tap for all your colours, or none. That said, you've got three colours you want, so this is likely to pick up something of relevance from the rest of the table. Probably worth running in most 3+ colour lists.
- Gaea's Cradle - A somewhat controversial omission. Thing is, the commander costs five, and the creature curve really starts at three. While the highs Cradle would offer would be quite good, it's far from earth-shattering here, and is quite variable in performance. Consciously adding variance is undesirable in a shell made of as many moving pieces as this one.
- Hall of the Bandit Lord - Coming in tapped telegraphs the haste it will grant, but still - haste on a land, without any extra mana overhead. Pretty good value. That said, that three life does add up, so be careful with using it.
- Krosan Verge - Putting the ability to nab two land-type lands directly on a land is rock solid. Fixes like a champ, all while actually ramping you.
- Myriad Landscape - The balanced all-colour version of this effect is far less glamorous, not only being restricted to basics but also forcing them to be the same type. Still, a case could be made for it as it is still technically ramp.
1. Early Game (Turns ~1-4)
Sol Ring variant. This deck sure likes its repeatable 2 mana's worth of ramp that can be deployed before turn three for a single-handed enabling of Ghired, and the strongest draws will likely feature one of those cards to get you into gear quickly. You should treat Enlightened Tutor as a virtual Sol Ring in situations like these, and fetch it out immediately turn one. The rest of the hand is more flexible, good things to have are draw to find various options, tutors to find specific pieces you're missing a bit further down the line, and members of the combat enhancement module to ensure you can swing Ghired with impunity and populate stuff as you look for outs.
The first couple of turns of the early game will play themselves - you pop out a land and hopefully ramp a bit. Typically once you hit four mana (either due to a Sol Ring start or a two-mana ramp spell), you can scout your hand for various support pieces to set down ahead of Ghired. As a rule of thumb, try to prioritise those with the biggest impact (Anointed Procession). The stuff that offers an immediate beneficial static effect that is currently irrelevant (Iroas) is best kept out of sight for now, if you have other plays to make. The less your opponents know about what's coming, the better.
Another important thing to keep in mind in the early game is the sequencing of fetchable lands. This is most prominent when ripping fetch lands, but also extends to land-type ramp. Getting a land that comes in tapped when you have no putative plays to follow up said fetching is a good use of potential resources, granting you the option to go for the untapped land later. That said, each of the land type cycles may play a slightly different role depending on your available resources. If you've got access to a bunch of basic lands or are sitting on a Cultivate variant, the tangos suddenly become perfect untapped duals and should be treated as such. If given access to ABU duals, you have the luxury of potentially treating shocklands as tap duals, whereas in their absence they're often your best bet for an untapped land on the fly. It's just a good thing to keep in mind and plan for the future as you go digging in your library.
Your primary early game goal is to get in the range of five mana and get Ghired out. This should typically happen by turn four, given the density of ramp in the list. Ideally, you managed to sequence some cheap support stuff into the early game setup as well, giving your future actions more impact. It's typically not worth delaying Ghired to get the support pieces online before him. Pushing him to six mana with Flameshadow Conjuring out (you copy Ghired, keep the token, swing, populate the Ghired copy, end up with a token of your commander and two extra Rhinos for a single red mana) is also a good idea. Once you've got Ghired out, you can move on to the mid game!
2. Mid Game (Turns ~5-8)
Angel of Destiny is an instance of damage heal, and also an instance of a lethal body once 55 health gets crossed. Some options, like Kalonian Hydra, are even crazier and scale exponentially as the totals go up. That said, a lot of the best ones tend to require actually attacking to get their thing going, keeping them somewhat in check. This applies to both of the examples mentioned here - Ghired populates them into combat, so the new Angel wouldn't know it attacked (and won't kill the target) and the Hydra won't fire off its trigger.
There's a little bit of science in stacking your attack triggers with the deck. In general, you want to put all non-clone attack triggers at the bottom of the stack, then Ghired's populate trigger, and any possible on-attack clones (Blade of Selves, Flamerush Rider) on the very top. This nets you the tokens to work with for populating purposes, and then allows the widest possible range of bodies to benefit from whatever cool attack stuff may be happening. Far from the hardest thing in the world, but once again just useful to keep in mind for maximising benefits.
There are various flavours to going into the red zone with the deck at this stage of the game. It's likely correct to focus your efforts on whomever you feel is the biggest threat in terms of your ultimate success, be it because of removal density, overall deck potential or whatever. You're already likely to attract early attention due to your growing board state and life total pressuring, so you're not all that likely to draw that much more immediate in-game ire for doing this. I tend to avoid this and just distribute damage evenly around the table, unless someone's explicitly far more threatening than the others. It may be suboptimal, but it is overall more enjoyable to the remaining players, and lowers the risk of salt-based retaliation in future games. Quartzwood Crasher also incentivises variable swing behaviour, depending on the desired outcome. Pile into the poor soul with the fewest blockers if trying to maximise the Dinosaur, or spread the love around if trying to generate anti-crackback blockers. It's also useful to wield the power of reactive focusing at your disposal. If somebody messes with your stuff, you just beeline them until they stop existing. It's in flavour for the deck, and works as a reasonable deterrent in established groups. Don't forget about the potential of crackback. You're stirring the pot, getting stuff going, and it's likely that if you leave yourself open the table may join forces and try to take you out.
Helm of the Host. Nine mana is no slouch, just chase the Helm out whenever convenient and then equip it as appropriate. Try to reveal your plays as they become relevant, avoid charging up Beastmaster Ascension unless you have no perspective of seven swingers. That said, most support stuff of that nature comes with immediately relevant static effects (Gisela). Another factor in sequencing is using Rionya as your copier. It then becomes beneficial to try to squeeze in a few spells prior to combat, mana permitting. If your game state won't be hurt by you holding that Nature's Lore or Swords to Plowshares for a couple of turns, so that you can surprise generate a few extra bodies when all the pieces come together, then it becomes a valid consideration.
All through this, you need to remain acutely aware of the possibility of a wipe. Mercilessly overextending only to get all your committed plays blown up is a horrible thing to happen, so you need to play around it. Keep drawing cards at every opportunity, avoid deploying unnecessary beefslabs when you're already busy copying one, and be mindful of the exact impact creature-based combat enhancers bring to the table. You've also got a few reactive options to stop you getting blown out, strongly consider holding mana up for them, even as a bluff if you don't have much else going on. Leaving a couple guys and lands untapped can hint at both a Heroic Intervention and Chord of Calling (for Selfless Spirit), making the more cautious of your opposition wary of interacting with you.
Note all this assumed you had your engine online. That's not guaranteed - you need to find a copy-worthy creature, a copy piece, and some combat enhancement. Missing any of those can be a bad time. Don't fear popping tutors for whatever you're missing, that's what they're there for. If granted the luxury of mana to support it, consider Eternal Witness (picking up the tutor you just used) into Kiki for maximum flexibility. A simple yet cool Chord trick is waiting until the end step before your turn to fetch the guy out, granting the thing pseudo-haste. This is particularly relevant for the prime scaling beefslabs in a game state where you can copy them immediately. Keep drawing. If lacking combat protection and staring down a set of reasonably developed boards capable of offing Ghired, consider bartering with others at the table for letting your Ghired and fresh populate bounce off in peace. It may be worth to lay low for a little while, making extra copies of stuff, building up real estate for a take-over attempt later. That said, this won't fly with any of the conventional beefslabs, and only really works with Rhinos or copies of small value dudes.
3. Late Game (Turns ~9+)
There are a few infinite combos in the deck, but they are quite hard to assemble. A tokenised Aurelia can lead to infinite combats with Ghired (just keep the one that Ghired makes, which is not aware that she's attacked already, so you get to swing with her again in the next combat and repeat ad nauseam), but as with most of the deck it also requires you to have some combat protection online. Rionya spits out copies at the start of combat, so there's no need for a Ghired. There are technically infinite lines with Helm of the Host involving Aurelia and Kiki, the latter of which is one of the clumsiest infinites in existence. The non-legendary Kiki copy can't make an immediate game-ending swarm in the start of combat phase when he's created, so he needs to live through a full turn cycle without a board wipe (he can just replace himself if someone tries to spot remove him, so there's that at least), going turbo wide in the end step before your turn. The tokens will only go away in your end step due to the way his ability is worded, allowing you to kill everyone. The clumsiness goes away with a token doubler.
Most other late game lines involve stacking power pieces and pump. You can find Boomgoat with a "kicked" Finale of Devastation, turning your Rhinos into 28/28s out of nowhere if there's nothing else around. You can make your guys huge, swing multiple times with Aurelia, slam twice as hard with Gisela. You can suddenly render your foes blocker-less with Subjugator Angel and sneak in that last bit of damage. You can rip an asymmetric Blasphemous Act with Avacyn or, better yet, Vigor. A combination of individually powerful pieces can make your board a late-game force, but it's not guaranteed to happen.
Even if the game goes long and people out-value you, subsequently leaving you in the dust, you still had an impact. You came out reasonably quickly, started multiplying a board of things that have no business being around in multiples. You stomped around, you roared, you probably dealt most of the damage that was needed to end the game. If you got all the way there, well done! If you did not, don't worry. EDH is not exactly the best format for straight-faced aggro to do its thing. But hey, you got to copy creatures for fun and profit.
Where applicable, the deck change header is clickable to take you to the relevant discussion post in the thread.